European public opinion divided

30 June 2010

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Category: Communications & media

european–commision.jpgThe European Commission has published a survey on the public's opinion of science and technology. The ‘Eurobarometer' survey analyses the attitude of European citizens, comparing them with similar polls from 2001 and 2005.

The general findings were that Europeans are interested in new scientific discoveries and technological developments. 75% of citizens agreed that science is providing more opportunities, and 66% think it is making our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable.

A section of the survey was dedicated to Science and 'animal testing'. Public opinion was divided, with 44% of respondents agreeing that scientists should be allowed to experiment on any animal. This increased to 66% if the research used smaller animals such as mice and led to improvement in health and well being.

Whilst 66% agreed with research on mice, the number fell to 44% when it came to dogs and monkeys. Those involved in research also agree that larger species should only be used in research when it is not possible to use smaller species; indeed that's why the larger species are afforded specific protection under the law.

British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) put its own spin on the results. Whilst the facts and figures given in the BUAV piece are accurate, the results were not reported in a balanced way and at times did not reflect the conclusions of the poll.

BUAV go on to state that 81% of European citizens agreed that new legislation should prohibit all experiments causing pain or suffering to primates. From the context, you are meant to think that this is from the current Eurobarometer poll. However, this figure was taken from a small opinion poll carried out last year, not commissioned by the European Commission, but by the BUAV-led pressure group, ECEAE (European Coalition to End Animal Experiments). It asked leading questions and polled people only in six EU Member States.

Summary of animal research findings of the Science and Technology Eurobarometer report in June 2010:

  • 44% agree that scientists should be allowed to experiment on animals (37% disagree)
  • 66% find that scientists should be allowed to do research on animals like mice if it produces new information about human health problems (18% disagree)
  • 44% find animal research acceptable when larger animals are the subject (such as dogs and monkeys)